Can one ever love something too much?
Can love be destructive?
What would you give up for love?
Friends? A vice? Your sanity?
These questions encapsulate the problematic romance between two classic Hollywood giants: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
She was Hollywood’s sweetheart.
She grew up in front of the public eye, driving everyone who laid eyes upon her to develop a sense of protective possession with every move she made.
He was a foreigner; a brash man whose love for acting was forged by the written works of Willam Shakespeare. He paid his dues at The Old Vic in London, working years to hone his craft before being plucked out of obscurity by the bright lights of Hollywood.
How they met? Well, that’s easy to explain.
Take the history of the last active ruler during the Ptolemaic Kingdom era of Egypt, slap on some old Hollywood glitz and glamour, add on a legendary director like Joseph L.Mankiewicz while throwing millions of dollars at the production and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a high stake on set affair.
1962. Rome, Italy.
Taylor, Burton, and Mankiewicz fly to the peninsula to help salvage an, already, delayed and over budget shooting schedule. Sometime during the production, Burton and Taylor fell into bed together, which led to something more.
On top of an already delayed filming schedule and the astronomically rising costs due to Taylor‘s various illnesses (and vanity), their affair was straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back.
When shooting ending and everyone went their separate ways, Burton and Taylor, on the other hand, did not. With both of them in marriages (Taylor‘s being the more high profile of the two) the revelation of their relationship didn’t go over too well.
The studios couldn’t wait to capitalize on their scandal, quickly shoving the two stars in a movie that reflected the real-life headlines about them.
The V.I.P.S was commercially and critically successful, drowning out the negative press that came from Cleopatra set just a couple of months earlier. After completing the movie, Burton and Taylor made their dalliances official and married on March 15th, 1964.
This is where their ‘charming’ love story turns from Hollywood legend to lore.
Nicknamed ‘Liz and Dick’, the ‘Burtons‘ lived a lifestyle jet-setting lifestyle that saw them in the headlines every other day of the week; Diamond rings, fur coats, vintage cars, the whole she-bang. Not only did they have the time to live this lifestyle, they also managed to complete mutltiple movies together throughout the decade. Some of the more memorable ones include The Sandpiper in 1965, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966, and The Comedians in 1967.
Those were happier times, of course, compared to what happened in the latter part of the decade.
Taylor‘s career was on the decline and so was her marriage. By the time 1970 swung around Taylor was overweight, and out of favor with Hollywood producers. Newer, younger and slimmer actresses like Jane Fonda and Julie Christie made it difficult for her to find roles and that frustration (along with Burton‘s heavy drinking) boiled over into their marriage.
By the time 1974 rolled the so-called ‘power couple of the decade’ divorced after 10 fabulous years of marriage.
reconciled married, however, briefly, a couple months after the fact only to divorce as swiftly as they got back together, thus ending a real-life fairytale.
The Taylor/Burton was one of the first affairs you hear about when you get into the world of classic movies. 10 years, 11 films, and countless articles, this is the only classic Hollywood pairing where being friends was preferable to being lovers. Even when they were both old, and gray, they never stopped loving each other.
Isn’t that what true love is about?
Despite everything you may have gone through together, at the end of the day you’ll still care for each other no matter what happens.
That’s what makes their romance so legendary.
With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard Burton about Elizabeth.
She has turned me into a moral man but not a prig, she is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody’s fool, she is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving, Dulcis Imperatrix, she is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her, and she loves me!
…Elizabeth is an eternal one night stand. She is my private and personal bought mistress. And lascivious with it. It is impossible to tell you what is consisted in the act of love. Well I’ll tell you, E is a receiver, a perpetual returner of the ball! I don’t write about sex very often, because it embarrasses me, but, but…
‘E’ and I did our going to bed exercises last night together. It is especially droll when we do running on the spot as she has to hold her breasts – one hand on each – for firm as they are, they are pretty big and the resultant wiggle-waggle is a pretty fetching sight and were it open to the public it would fetch in a lot of people. Like 10 million.
If you wish to read other entries in this blogathon click: here.